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Reebok Agrees To $25M Settlement In Refunds For 'Toning Shoes'

Reebok EasyTone shoes.
Reebok EasyTone shoes.

Reebok International Ltd. came to an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission over what the government said were "over-hyped advertising claims" by Reebok that a pair of its specialty shoes could tone leg and butt muscles better than regular shoes.

One TV ad, cited by the FTC, claimed that Reebok's EasyTone shoes tone "your butt up to 28 percent more than regular sneakers, just by walking."

Not so said the FTC. And, today it announced that it reached a $25 million settlement with Reebok. That money will provide refunds to consumers who bought Reebok toning shoes or toning apparel. The refund amount will depend on how many people apply for the refund, which you apply for by clicking here.

"The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

Reebok's shoes retail for $80 to $100 a pair. The Los Angeles Times reports that the FTC investigation found that Reebok could not back up the claims it made in its advertisements.

In a statement, however, Reebok stood by its shoes, saying "settling [with the FTC] does not mean we agreed with the FTC's allegations; we do not."

Reebok added:

We fully stand behind our EasyTone technology – the first shoe in the toning category inspired by balance-ball training. We have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from thousands of EasyTone customers, and we remain committed to the continued development of our EasyTone line of products. Our customers are our number one priority, and we will continue to deliver products that they trust and love.

But as part of the settlement, Reebok can no longer make claims that toning shoes and toning apparel are "effective in strengthening muscles" and result in a certain percent of more toning unless "the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence."

So, we guess this means it's back to the StairMaster.

Update at 1:06 p.m. ET. The Science:

Earlier this year, NPR ran a story that looked at the claims made by toning shoe manufacturers and compared them to what science says about them. The bottom line:

The latest two studies come from the American Council on Exercise. The nonprofit group compared the benefits of toning shoes from Skechers, Reebok and MBT with ordinary running shoes.

"Both studies found that there was no significant difference between any of the toning shoes and the standard running shoe," says ACE's Todd Galati. Bottom line, says Galati, is that claims that toning shoes help people burn extra calories, improve muscle tone and build strength are bunk.

"These shoes are not a magic pill. It is the walking that will make a difference in your life. Not the shoe," he says.

Update at 2:25 p.m. ET. Other Companies:

We just spoke to Larissa Bungo and Dana Barragate, two of the lawyers who worked the case for the FTC, who said today's announcement only involves Reebok.

But Bungo said this should send a message to other companies marketing these shoes that "they need to have substantiation before making claims."

Barragate said how much money each customer will get back will depend on the number who apply. It could be the full amount, she said. She also said their office had no estimate as to when refunds would go out.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.